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Should Driving Tests Include "Off Road Recovery"?

A Column by the Editor
web posted May 10, 2011

COLUMN – As the Editor and Publisher of Edgefield Daily, I have the unwanted task of covering the most horrific stories in the county up close and personal. The worst of which is a traffic fatality. The majority of these are caused by a driver running off the road and "overcorrecting", resulting in them losing control of the vehicle, ending with a deadly result.

There are many other crashes from the same circumstances that lead to injuries, though not death.

Perhaps it is time to require an "off road recovery" portion of the drivers test to become a licensed driver or, at very least, such training during drivers education classes during high school.

I do not look for that to happen anytime soon. Forcing a student driver, or even an experienced driver, off the road could leave the training facilitator open for litigation in the event a crash took place during the training even under the most controlled of circumstances. The unknown variable would always be the driver, whose actions can never be predicted.

The fact remains that most fatalities in our county result from a driver running off the road and "snatching" the car back onto the roadway. This causes the vehicle to sharply cross the oncoming lane when the tires gain traction on the roadway, resulting in the driver then responding in a similar sharp turning back to their lane.

The reaction causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle, or the vehicle to start to roll due to the sideways motion. Regardless of the result, the driver is no longer in control of the car or the direction it is traveling.

The reality is, that if a driver refuses to act on their impulses, they stand a far better chance of survival and avoiding a serious crash. And that can only be accomplished by training. Training that should start at a young age for teens seeking to get their drivers license.

It would also be something older drivers should take voluntarily to help them in defensive driving measures.

The most widely accepted practice is for a driver who finds themselves running off the roadway and onto the shoulder is to resist the urge to snatch the wheel sharply back onto the road. Remain calm and remove your foot from the accelerator and keep control of the vehicle. As the vehicle begins to slow, ease the vehicle back onto the roadway with a slight turning of the steering wheel.

Never slam on the brakes, especially during or just after rainy conditions. The grass shoulders will be very slick and doing so increases the chances the vehicle will begin to slide sideways and the driver losing control.

Also resist the urge to do so to avoid hitting a sign or a mailbox. It is far better to have minor damage to the vehicle's front end than to suffer an out of control slide or spin that could leave you with serious injury or death.

If you do find yourself in a situation with the car in a slide, turn the steering wheel into the direction of the spin slowly and remain off the brake and accelerator. Any quick or jerking motion could result in losing control of the situation.

Of course, the best defensive driving measure any driver can take is to remain focused on the primary job of driving. Avoid distractions such as answering a cell phone call or trying to dial or text while driving. No phone call is more important than your life, or those of your passengers.

Never reach down to retrieve a dropped item while driving. The item is not going anywhere and you can pull off the roadway to retrieve the item, even a lit cigarette. A small burn in the carpet is better than a totaled vehicle, injury or loss of life.

There have been five fatalities on Edgefield County roads so far this year, with three of the deaths directly related to the driver running off the road and losing control.

For all past articles please visit our Archives

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